McDonnell Orders Closure of Mecklenburg Prison

Click on graph for more legible image. Credit: Pew Center for the States.

Gov. Bob McDonnell has directed the Department of Corrections to close the Mecklenburg Correctional Center in Boydton. The  decision was prompted by by Pennsylvania’s decision to remove nearly 1,000 prisoners housed under contract in Virginia, resulting in a loss of $20 million a year.

Mecklenburg inmates will be transferred to the Green Rock Correctional Center in Chatham, reducing the cost per inmate by $10,000 and offsetting some of the lost revenue, according to a press release from the governor’s office. With 730 offenders held in Mecklenburg on average, the implied savings amounts to $7.3 million yearly.

Opened in 1976, the Mecklenburg prison was designed for maximum security prisoners. It made national news in 1984 when six death-row inmates escaped, touching off one of the biggest manhunts in Virginia history. But it has since been reclassified as a medium-security facility. Not only is the design outdated, requiring more guards than state-of-the-art facilities, but it requires substantial ongoing maintenance work.

Nationally, the plummeting crime rate and declining incarceration rate (see chart above) is one of the few trends favorable to state budgets. Fewer prisoners translates into direct savings to taxpayers. Indeed, Virginia’s inmate population plunged 26% to about 30,000 between 2000 and 2010. As the population of Virginia prisons continues to decline, there should be additional opportunities to cut costs — unless other states reduce the number of inmates they outsource to Virginia facilities. It would be interesting to know how many more out-of-state inmates there are and what level of exposure the commonwealth has to further cutbacks.


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2 responses to “McDonnell Orders Closure of Mecklenburg Prison”

  1. Yet, at the same time prisons are closing, the state is increasing the number of days it leaves state-responsible prisoners in local jails and then reduced how much they pay for their upkeep. Guess who gets stuck with that bill?
    In addition, the state is delaying the transfer of their inmates out of local jails to state facilities.
    More examples of underfunded mandates where the state brags about saving money, keeping taxes low, etc. while dumping the responsibility and cost on local taxpayers! Thanks. Bosun

  2. in terms of the largest state agency – Corrections is still king leaving VDOT, the prior king, in the rear view mirror.

    prison should be reserved for those who are a real threat to other people – killers, rapists, etc…not those who have been dumb enough to traffic in wrong kind of drugs – the kind that law enforcement specializes in – in enforcement.

    It costs us twice. First to imprison …then once out..they are crippled in terms of earning a living so they end up on entitlements.

    but I applaud what McDonnell is doing in terms of reducing costs where it makes sense though what Bosun is saying needs a little more attention.

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